3-D printing is a young technology, but its pioneers and champions aren't satisfied with printing cars, airplane parts, or tiny edible spaceships--they're always looking down the road at what's next. We talked with some of the best minds in 3-D printing about their dream projects--not what's possible now, but what their current work might lead to in five or ten years. These six dream projects are pretty astounding, and what's most striking is how attainable they seem. These aren't pipe dreams. They're our future.
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Right now, 3-D printing is relatively primitive, especially when using the cheaper, simpler printers designed to get more hobbyists experimenting with the new technology. Current 3-D printing projects include Marcelo Coelho's Digital Chocolatier, which extrudes layers of chocolate, caramel, nuts, and other candy components to create a custom-designed candy bar. But from these simple roots, these designers all see incredible projects springing forth in the future.
The next step for 3-D printing seems to be figuring out a way to print multiple substrates at once. To print entire working machines, for example, you've got to print mechanical objects, batteries, and silicon chips, all at the same time. (To see how that works, check out our interactive animation.) But none of the 3-D printing experts I spoke to showed the slightest uncertainty that that hurdle would be overcome. It was never "if we can figure out a way," but always "when we figure out a way."
I did find a division in the way these scientists, engineers, and designers see 3-D printing. Some, like Hod Lipson of Cornell University's Fab@Home group, compare 3-D printers to computers, saying their functionality and design will evolve in ways we can't predict, but which will end up vital to our daily lives, regardless of their eventual form. Others, like Enrico Dini, are dreamers, seeing 3-D printers as less a personal fabrication device and more a new medium for a restless muse to exploit. But they are all entranced with the possibilities presented by 3-D printers, and though their dream projects are varied, they're all pretty amazing.
Oh, and if you're curious about how a 3-D printer actually works, don't forget to check out our interactive animation--it's both simpler and more complicated than you'd think.
I love this stuff. Expecially the organ printer. I can get behind this technology. Just not the technology that kills people.
What did I say in the future of magazines contest?
This is going to be a huge part of our future.
It is like the leap from scribes to the printing press.
Do you accept bits of string?
The neatest thing about 3D printing is that you don't need to be a Scientist or an Engineer to take part. Whatever your background, you can take part right now. You can build a 3D Printer from a choice of kits we have available or if you prefer, we can have one built for you and delivered straight to your door, ready to use and complete with full instructions for use.
You can design and build your own products or simply download 3D Models from the Internet and print them out.
Wherever you are in the World, come and visit us at RepRap Central and we'll help you take those first steps into your personal 3D Printing future.
My dream project is to print a 3D printer.
But seriously, that guy who want to print a house on the moon should focus a bit more locally. I bet he could revolutionize low-income or temporary housing. He just needs to make his printer mobile so the structure can be larger than the printer.
This is truly a revolutionary gadget in the history as a 2-D printer was so, and I saw in some university, professors and students already use this marvelous equipment six years ago, but that time only making resin(or plastic) material was possible.
To make human organ with a 3-D printer, different kinds of organic material should be put in it, then which unit of that should be? I mean atom, molecule or polymer? Maybe I am asking crazy question.
Finally, if 3-D scanner is also developed, it would be possible to share objects all over the world!
I've been involved in the 3D Printing scene for some time. Built a RepRap Mendel, and then I grabbed an Up! 3D Printer from www.desktopfab.com
It's amazing how far these things have come in a short time. The resolution and capabilities to do complex objects is absolutely outstanding. And it's amazing that the consumer can now get one for only a few thousand dollars (in the space the laser printer was about 10-15 years ago). Give it another couple years and these things will be affordable for the common user. (maybe still a bit on the highend, but still affordable).
Anyway, Amazing things being done, and it's really amazing that you can have one for only like $3000 bucks today, that is capable of very high quality professional prints.
I've been teaching workshops, and giving talks to local groups about 3D Printing technology, and the response from every niche is amazing. We have artists, sculpters, engineers, woodworkers, toy makers, costume designers, and every manner of people using the printers at our local hackerspace for some great projects.
It's really exciting to be involved in something at this stage, which is making this kind of impact in our world.
Anyway, DesktopFab has good quality stuff (amazed me when I saw the quality and performance compared to my RepRap) and for a reasonable price if anyone's interested. Or if your looking more on the DIY side, feel free to drop me a line via my blog, I'll be happy to give any pointers.
Also to answer some of the above questions, I believe for human organ printing they are using a combination of a bio-polymer, and cell scaffold structures which allow the cells to grow into them then break down. Doped with Stem Cells.
As for 3D Scanning, there are already tons. ZCorp makes very high end ones capable of like 50micron scans in full color, then there are some lower end commercial ones in the few thousand range, or you can get into software based ones for you PC with a webcam and a handheld laser, for super cheap, like David 3D Scanner... They are out there.
Anyway, if anyone wants any follow up questions, feel free to contact me via my blog.
I love this tech and am looking into starting a home based firm providing rapid prototyping services for local companies (ie engineers, architects, artists, physicians, etc...)
I can see this becoming a new mini-industry.
Love, Peace & Soul
Google "Contour Crafting". Here's a quick summary page:
Printing whole buildings, cheap.
3D printing will be an intellectual property lawyer's dream! Instead of people ripping off music and movies, the software for making objects will be "napsterized". To follow the social implications of technological disruption (among other topics), see: silberzahnjones.wordpress.com
This would be a good way to build a sarcophagus around a failed nuclear reactor. No need for workers to be near the contaminated work site. Precise, airtight construction. Utilities such as monitoring equipment could be built in.
Like to see this developed for our countries failing infrastructures. ie: bridges, highways, electrical grid
Would be neat if the Printer would print a "Track" to Drive along as it builds the structures..
you could then have a somewhat automated system maintain
upkeep along such infrastructures
I've been following this 3d printing concept for a year now and I'm quite amazed as what it has become today. I have lots of jewelry and toy ideas to create and hope to bring it to market. I hope its 3D Patent will not be pricey as well. GM motors is creating car models with this too. I look forward to more info on 3d printing.
@ Prbsolver&3D Buzz; Yeah, The first thing I thought of was bridge manufacture. There's no reason we can't render a product underwater, correct? Dome homes under the sea, fellas. Run gunnite, or something similar.